Nutrition Solutions by Julie

Food Allergies

It’s important to understand what food allergies are, the way they can affect you and their possible causes. Food allergy is a general term used to describe what is most likely a food intolerance. A true allergic reaction to food results in an immediate initial response such as hives, a rash, an asthma attack, vomiting or in severe cases anaphylactic shock. Classic foods that cause this type of reaction are shellfish, strawberries and peanuts. If you are truly allergic, a reaction will occur each time the food is eaten after initial exposure.

An intolerance or sensitivity are terms used to describe another type of allergy that is now more widely recognized as a reaction caused by a food, but the mechanism is unclear;. However you define it, the reactions are less severe, but very real. The result by the body is a misdirected response of the immune system. The immune system is a complex body system which protects us from bacteria and viruses. Normally, when exposed to an "invader" the body makes antibodies which kill or neutralize the "bug." In people with allergies though, the antibodies attack normally harmless substances like food. As you continue to eat the food (two or three or more times each, everyday) the body will try to adapt. Your reactions will lessen and become more vague and you may not associate with the symptoms with the foods you are eating. You may experience constant low-grade inflammation, stuffy nose and other symptoms of a common cold or feelings of fatigue and sleeplessness. These are signs that the body (our immune system) is no longer coping with the particles in the food that are causing the reaction and we become exhausted in every sense of the word.

The good news about food allergies or intolerances is that we are more aware of them now than ever before and there are a number of foods available that will allow you to eat healthfully, conveniently and be allergy-free.

If you suspect you have an allergy or intolerance, talk to your health care provider about steps you can take, if your current provider is not familiar with treating food allergies, you may be able to ask for a referral to a health care provider who specializes in food allergies. Another helpful method is to try a process used to detect your food allergen by using a meal-by-meal elimination method. There are numerous books that can assist with this process. Any bookseller has a number of titles, so you may browse many to find one that works for you.